ISI should be under civilian rule: Pakistani media

August 1st, 2008 - 3:32 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Taliban
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Aug 1 (IANS) Smarting under embarrassing questions from the United States about the links of its premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), with the Taliban and other terror outfits in the region, the Pakistani media is coming round to the view that the agency should be brought under “direct and practical” control of the prime minister. US President George W. Bush raised serious concerns about “elements in the ISI” and asked Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during a meeting in Washington last week: “Who controls the ISI?”

Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar who was part of Prime Minister Gilani’s delegation to the US told the media: “President Bush had complained that actionable intelligence shared with Pakistan got leaked much before its due time”.

Media reports said Gilani in his talks with Bush insisted the ISI was under his direct control and assured that from now on he would be responsible for its actions.

The allegation against ISI appeared a few days after the government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) issued a notification saying the agency will be placed under the Interior Ministry. But faced with a strong reaction from the military authorities the government issued a clarification that ISI will continue to work under the prime minister.

But many experts remain sceptical about this claim. They argued the military has always controlled the ISI and prime ministers have had very little say in its operations.

“Every one knows who controls the ISI but I believe that it should be placed under direct and practical control of chief executive (prime minister),” former army general Talat Masood told IANS.

But former Pakistani diplomat Abdul Qadir Khan said that ISI should “continue to work as it is working under the prime minister”. He thinks that placing it under the Interior Ministry will hamper its counter-intelligence work.

In a recent report, the New york Times had said that a deputy director of the CIA secretly travelled to Pakistan in June with evidence of ISI’s involvement in the Afghan insurgency. But Pakistani authorities have rejected the report, terming it baseless.

The Pakistani English daily the Dawn in its editorial said: “Self-interest demands that Pakistan says no to militancy and one can assume that the ISI understands the country’s strategic and political interests well enough to refrain from undertaking such unwise adventures.”

Another English daily, The Nation, in its editorial urged the government to close down the political wing in ISI.

“There is a need under the circumstances to forthwith close for good the political wing in the agency. While dealing with militancy there is a need to ensure that the agency’s activities are in full conformity with government policy,” the paper said.

It added: “The ISI must have a clearly defined charter, spelling out its administrative, financial and operational control system.”

It felt the parliament should subsequently pass the charter after it has been thoroughly discussed in the “concerned committees”.

A similar opinion was also expressed by yet another English daily, The News, which called for civilian control over the ISI. “The fact is that the ISI needs to be brought under check. As civilians we need to know what its role is.”

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